What we do is rooted in love
“In practical terms, what difference does it make to state loud and clear that your founders and majority shareholders are from the LGBT community?” This question comes up often — with healthy curiosity 99.9% of the time. Asserting to be part of the LGBTQIA2+ community has always seemed quite obvious to us: it is the very foundation of the TUX story; it conditions our present and guides our choices for the future.
We may have gotten used to it by now, but when Dominic Tremblay and Ludwig Ciupka — known as “Dom” and “Lud” — started TUX, the concept of LGBTQIA2+ “visibility” or “leadership” were non-existent. Their dream, then, was to see the emergence of role models who prove that being openly gay and running a business is possible.
“I am fortunate to be in a position where I can make a difference and take a public stand — as a business leader, as a gay man who married the love of his life and started a company with him, as a father of a same-sex family.”
Convinced that better representation of all marginalized communities would mean a fairer workplace and ultimately a more just society, the TUX cofounders began by setting an example. “I want future generations — starting with my children — to live in a world that is more caring and welcoming of all identities than the one I grew up in,” says Dom. “Today, I am fortunate to be in a position where I can make a difference and take a public stand — as a business leader, as a gay man who married the love of his life and started a company with him, as a father of a same-sex family… I am hopeful that our LGBTQ talent, and all people from minority backgrounds, will feel they belong at TUX just as much as someone else who would be straight, cis, able-bodied, white, neurotypical, and holds a master’s degree.”
Good intentions and great speeches count, but at TUX, we also believe in the power of formal and public commitment. That’s why we approached the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) to become a certified LGBT+ business — one more way to break the code and prove that the business world belongs to everyone.
After being in the business for 12 years, we have seen how this diversity of backgrounds strengthens both our creativity and our corporate culture, with a strong LGBTQIA2+ representation at every level of the company:
- 1 in 5 talent identify themselves as such
- 60% of our LGBTQIA2+ talent are in a position of seniority, holding an executive, VP or senior role*
*Source: The “We are TUX” Survey, 2021.
“And we don’t plan on stopping there. When it comes to equity and inclusion, we are trying to push the envelope. I see it first-hand every day: working with talent from various backgrounds directly influences the quality of our work — personally, I see to what extent it has expanded my views and helped me evolve.”
“You can’t help but notice it when you walk in here: coming to work in an outfit that challenges gender norms, with natural hair or cornrows, is seen as ‘normal,’” adds Sarah, Responsible Commitment Lead at TUX. “As a company, we work actively and daily to nurture a ‘safe space’ culture. It takes work, but it can be done — why isn’t it done everywhere?”
“To thrive in your work, you have to be able to be yourself wholeheartedly. No company should make us leave our identities in the closet.”
This corporate culture is intimately linked to the history that unites our cofounders, Lud and Dom. When they met, to collaborate on a pro bono project, neither of them expected what would follow: love at first sight and a desire to build everything together. Since then, Dom and Lud have married, are dads to two children, as well as their third (big) baby, TUX. “I don’t see how we could have built our company without accepting that part of our story — or else we would have paid for it by being unhappy,” Lud says. “Our initial belief was simple: to thrive in your work, you have to be able to be yourself wholeheartedly. No company should make us leave our identities in the closet.”
Very quickly, this need for freedom will go beyond the couple and their identity, to drive TUX’s business model itself. While neither Dom nor Lud comes from an advertising agency — the former worked for ING and then L’Oréal, while the latter began his career as a fashion photographer — they imagined TUX without any preconceived ideas. A pivotal approach for the company’s development: from being a “creative partner” at the beginning, Dom and Lud’s vision has evolved into that of a “creative house”. “It was this vision, free of traditional shackles, that I embraced when I left the agency for which I was working at the time, to join TUX,” says Pierre-André, known as “P-A”, third partner and Executive Vice President.
“It may seem trivial, but this ‘born out of love’ aspect today influences everything we do and how we do it.”
“When I first met Dom and Lud, I remember feeling I was meeting two guys who were clearly talented, but more importantly, two really kind and inspiring humans who care about each other and the people around them. I saw real ‘benevolence’. This is rare and precious. I felt that together we could create the work environment of the future, a place where we are at our best because we all support each other. It may seem trivial, but this ‘born out of love’ aspect today influences everything we do and how we do it. It has guided me in how I built and led the strategy team, and now, all of TUX. Yes, we are a company; yes, we do business, and we want to be profitable. But the question we ask ourselves when we wake up in the morning is not: “how can we make more cash, how can we grow faster?” Rather, we ask, “Are we taking care of our teams properly? And more broadly, how can we leverage TUX to take care of the people around us?”
In this spirit, to avoid being confined by the mold of traditional agencies, Dom, Lud and P-A decided to leave downtown. They set up their new offices in a building on the Plaza St-Hubert, where TUX opened a buvette called Brouillon, and which would house a studio large enough to hold photo shoots, of course, but also events. Whether it’s TUX Karma foundation’s project calls; Public exhibitions — the first one dedicated to Jason Cantoro; screenings of short films curated by our JEDI committee… our offices reflect our company: a hybrid. Likewise, a career with us is also malleable; open to change depending on what a talent likes and what they want to accomplish.
“Seeing people achieve their goals because your company is flexible enough to allow them to do so […] is every business owner’s dream.”
“Talent coming from large agencies often have a very “codified” career path — whether it be related to their role, their level of autonomy, the freedom to express their personality at work, or even the decision-making framework,” says Lud, “our objective is to allow them to grow organically, giving them the freedom to project themselves into more open roles, shaped by whatever is of particular importance to them. When their project is clear, we discuss it, we see if it is possible, and if so, we try to implement their vision. Many of them have made lateral moves at TUX: they wanted to try something new, to thrive in other areas, without having to leave TUX. Sometimes they realize that they were happier in their previous role; they come back to it, satisfied that they tried. Sometimes, the difference between what they had imagined and reality is huge. People tend to adapt. And when the move works out, it’s beautiful! “Seeing people achieve their goals because your company is flexible enough to allow them to do so is every business owner’s dream.”
This attentiveness aimed at talent and their needs is even reflected in TUX’s growth strategy as it relies heavily on their involvement in the company’s growth.
“We develop TUX in conjunction with our talent: by being transparent with them about the health of the company — we review the numbers monthly; by involving them and allowing them the space they are ready to take. We want to start a foundation? We consult them on what topics it should address. We want to deepen our responsible commitments? We let them take the lead in such committees as Ecoresponsibility, Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion, Volunteer Work, or Environment. In the end, it makes TUX a company that grows organically, carried by everyone, with heart.”
“After Montreal, what better place to achieve TUX’s vision than California, home of progressive thought?”
Perhaps it is this “rooted in love” spirit that best defines us. It gives us the impetus we need to lead the industry in a necessary shift — one where societal and environmental impacts matter more than generating profits, where our impact benefits all of society: our business partners, vulnerable communities, the planet. Is that what sparked the idea of opening our second office in Los Angeles? Probably — “After Montreal, what better place to achieve TUX’s vision than California, home of and progressive thought?” asks Lud, grinning.